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Moldovan Leaders, Protesters Face Off On Independence Day


'This Is A Dictatorship' - Protests Mark Moldova's Independence Day
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WATCH: 'This Is A Dictatorship' - Protests Mark Moldova's Independence Day

Moldova's leaders gathered in downtown Chisinau for a ceremony marking Independence Day as hundreds of protesters shouted antigovernment slogans nearby.

The August 27 demonstration on Grand National Assembly Square was the latest in a series of antigovernment protests that have been driven in large part by Romanians and Moldovans living outside of the country.

A day after thousands protested on the square against what they say is a corrupt government, fences installed and manned by hundreds of riot police separated the remaining demonstrators from the Moldovan officials and foreign dignitaries who attended a flower-laying ceremony at the monument to Stefan cel Mare (Stephen the Great).

Protesters carrying Moldovan tricolor flags, angered by the move to prevent them from reaching the monument, shouted "Down with the Mafia!" while waiting for the arrival of the country’s leaders.

A group of protesters spent the night near the statue of the medieval prince who is revered as a national hero both by Romanians and Moldovans.

Riot police forcibly removed them early on August 27, after ordering them to vacate the area to make way for government officials.

President Igor Dodon, parliament speaker Andrian Candu, and Prime Minister Pavel Filip were among the officials who laid flowers at the monument.

Moldovan Expats Protest Against Government In Chisinau
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Protesters shouted antigovernment slogans, but their voices were gradually drowned out by a military brass band.

It was unusual for Moscow-friendly Dodon to appear together with pro-Western Candu and Filip.

The protests in Chisinau come a little more than two weeks after more than 100,000 Romanians -- many of them expatriates -- attended a huge anticorruption rally on August 10 in Bucharest.

The demonstration turned violent when paramilitary riot police used tear gas, water cannons, and batons to disperse the mostly peaceful protest. More than 400 protesters were injured and one person died more than a week later apparently as a result of inhaling tear gas.

Like the Romanians, with whom Moldovans share a common language and history, the protesters in Chisinau are angered by corruption, endemic poverty, and the policies of the government.

Moldova's cabinet is led by the Democratic Party, which is headed by controversial billionaire Vladimir Plahotniuc.

Popular anger has also been stoked by recent court decisions that annulled the results of the mayoral election in Chisinau.

Waving Moldovan and European Union flags, the antigovernment protesters on August 26 chanted "Send Plahotniuc To Jail."

The demonstration was organized by the pro-European Action and Solidarity Party, the Dignity and Truth Platform, and the Liberal Democrat Party in Moldova.

At a similar protest in Brussels, around two dozen activists gathered outside the headquarters of the European Commission, criticizing the Chisinau mayoral election decision and other recent electoral changes.

Several waved Romanian and Moldovan flags, which have identical red-yellow-blue colors and held a banner reading “Do Not Support Corrupt Oligarchs In Moldova.”

Written by Eugen Tomiuc with additional reporting by RFE/RL's Moldovan Service, unimedia.md, privesc.eu, and news.yam.md
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